Monday, December 15, 2014

Year in Review: New Comcast Center leaves hundreds scrambling for surface parking

Photo source: BuildingPhilly
By 2017, Philadelphia will have a new tallest building: the now-under-construction Comcast Innovation and Technology Center will jut 1,121 ft into the air high above the City that Loves You Back. ("That's 59 stories to you and me.") Forgotten in the excitement of a tower that requires redrawing the downtown skyline is the fact that hundreds of automobile-commuting Center City workers must now arrange for alternative places to store their cars after excavation commenced on the surface parking lot at 18th and Arch Streets.

The block, bounded by 18th, 19th, Cuthbert, and Arch Streets, has served as a parking lot since 1996. In early 1994, Sir-Parks-A-Lot, "the global surface parking authority," purchased the 28-story Reading and Baltimore and Ohio and Carlisle and Hanover Railroad Building, an office tower, which stood at the site since 1937. Sir-Parks-A-Lot promised to move their world headquarters into the architectural gem, but instead decided last minute to raze the structure and "welcome it to the company's numerous surface parking options."

The many who parked at the lot five days a week became close with each other and with lot employees. Mark Betricht, an attendant at the site until construction crews arrived, is the god father to six children of parking customers. "I'm going to really miss seeing this bunch of misfits," Betricht joked, adding a hearty laugh. "No, I'm kidding. We had a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people. I'm really going to miss Mrs. Jeselle bringing me homemade donuts three times a week."

"It's a sad but exciting day," said Patty Gilmore, 49, a Chester County resident and analyst with Lincoln Financial, after arriving at the lot one day only to see the entrance roped off and a towering yellow truck crane at the site's center. "I'm gonna miss that little--well, big--patch of asphalt parking paradise. It was my baby. I will miss her welcoming me in the early mornings and sending me off in the evenings."

The patrons and lot workers participated in a holiday gift exchange and held an annual sand volleyball tournament at the northwest corner of the site. "We had some great beach volleyball matches here," said Jeff Bonner, an analyzation officer with Cooper-Sinclair. "We created teams by the area where you parked your car. And, not only did I spike the ball, I spiked the punch."

When the lot was snow-covered everybody pitched in to yell at the plow operator if he or she plowed-in any of the vehicles or created piles that reduced the number of spaces. Hundreds volunteered for the charity car wash every July, an event that raised money for the annual beach volleyball tournament.

Not everyone has been able to accept the parking lot's demise and move on without a fight. Strong opposition by some forced Comcast and development partner Liberty Property Trust to release alternate renderings with the surface parking lot completely intact. Colorful, futuristic designs showed a nearly 60-story skyscraper suspended from "millions" of steel cables from the top and "hovering" thirty feet above the ground.

"I've been parking here for seven years," said Jean Tomlinson, 48, a Delaware County resident and downtown employee at Cigna. "What am going to do? No, really, what am I supposed to do. Surface parking options are dwindling in the office district. It sucks. The Wawa was just down the street and they're disappearing, too, in Center City. Plus, what other lot has sand volleyball?"

"I'm a surface parking lot gal," said Betty Talfone. "I can't park in a garage. I'm claustrophobic like that. I won't park in a garage...I just won't."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Vatican confirms Pope will visit Pat's AND Geno's

In March, a delegation of Philadelphians traveled to Vatican City to extend a personal invitation to Pope Francis to visit the city during the World Meeting of Families in September 2015. In addition to personalized jerseys from all four major sports franchises, the distinguished group presented His Holiness with a two-day-old cheesesteak brought over on the flight to Italy in a styrofoam organ donor cooler. (They did not disclose where the steak was purchased.) Francis accepted the gifts with a wide grin and the Brotherly Love representatives moved on after a brief interaction. "I didn't think he would eat the cheesesteak to be perfectly honest," said an incredulous Mayor Michael Nutter. "I was floored when I got the call last week. I thought it was a prank." The Call was directly from the Pope himself asking which cheesesteak establishment he should patronize during his visit next fall. Nutter politely guided Francis to sample several steak shops because it is "very difficult to choose just one." Last week, the Vatican confirmed that the Pope would visit Pat's and Geno's in South Philadelphia and possibly two more shops during the brief stay.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

7 feet of snow: Buffalo area school districts forced to grant first two-hour delay opening in 78 years

Above: A wall of snow moves inland from unfrozen Lake Erie in western New York state on November 18, 2014. Parts of Erie, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua Counties, south of Buffalo, received nearly seven feet of snow from the intense, slow-moving band of precipitation. The region, which annually receives huge amounts of lake effect snow, was forced to open schools two hours late during the most intense part of the storm. "I think seven feet of snow is enough to have a two-hour delayed opening," said Eileen McAntyre, Superintendent of Hamburg (NY) Area School District. "[Residents of western New York] are used to snow and I really hope I don't come across as a wimp for opening two hours late. It's been 78 years since the last delayed school opening in this area." 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

World Series: Pence, Bumgarner urging celebrating Giants fans to disperse from overloaded Golden Gate Bridge

Above: Social media led hundreds of thousands of Giants fans to converge on the Golden Gate Bridge soon after the team's victory parade ended in downtown San Francisco on Friday, October 31, 2014. Engineers became concerned after the curved roadway began to flatten and pleaded with authorities to disperse the crowd as quickly as possible. San Francisco Police and Marin County officials called on Giants players to help out and ask the fanatics to peacefully vacate the 77-year-old suspension bridge. Outfielder Hunter Pence and pitcher Madison Bumgarner appeared in a 60-second television public service announcement earlier today: "Hey, guys. Yeah, you guys on the bridge. We want you all to enjoy the World Series and celebrate responsibly. So, could you do us a favor and get off the bridge. Please, get off the bridge. All you have to is...get off the bridge. Hey, you there on the bridge...get off the bridge." The two stars of the championship series then turned "Get off the Bridge" into a catchy jingle and promised "Get off the Bridge" t-shirts for all who...get off the bridge.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dilworth Park monitored Day of Skateboarding intended to 'get it out of the system'

Though not a cloud in the sky, the sun-soaked gray New Hampshire granite in new Dilwoth Park was damp. Not from an earlier passing shower. Not from the popular dancing fountains. Not from a spilled beverage purchased from busy Rosa Blanca Cafe. No, this was from a small group of mesmerized skateboarders drooling uncontrollably with anticipation and excitement...oh, and staring...intently. "I come here everyday and just stare," said Dylan Eversby, 16, a Pennsport native with skateboard in hand. "It would be pretty rad to skate these glass bastards." The young skater was referring to the swooping glass transit head houses in the park which frame the iconic City Hall to the east. Though skateboarding is against the rules in Dilworth Park, a skateboarder hopping the stainless steel railing barrier and tackling the halfpipe-esque transit entrances seemed inevitable. For this reason, the park decided to hold a "Day of Skating." The goal, according to park officials, was to offer a controlled, supervised one-day-only of skating the five-layer glass to "scratch the itch and put the urge to bed." All participating skaters--there were hundreds--said the event more than satisfied the desire that started with the park's opening in September. "It was awesome, what a day, but I totally get it was a onetime deal...I respect that," said one skater.

Police: Frein played paintball at popular, crowded Pocono course several times during 48-day manhunt


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Capella University to shelf new online music school: A Capella University

The world's first online a cappella music school will be shut down at the conclusion of the fall semester. Low enrollment and complaints of "jam sessions feeling way too distant" are behind the closure.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ba-Bye week: NFL to move bye week to the off-season

"[The NFL is] not getting rid of the bye week," said one league source. "We're just moving it to April or May... which will be much better for television networks. This will go a long way in preventing head injuries to the network execs banging their heads against their desks over ratings concerns."
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Schuylkill River Boardwalk: By the Numbers

The Schuylkill River Boardwalk opened on Thursday, stretching north from the South Street Bridge to Locust Street. The impressive, nearly two-fifths-mile long walkway is the latest segment of the Schuylkill River Trail, part of the region's rapidly growing trail network. Below is a look at the $18M "floating multi-use trail" by the numbers:

--5 inches: The depth of river water covering the new walkway at each high tide--a design element intended to "help clean the decking daily."

--1,794 ft: The height--due to gentle turns--of the 2,000 ft-long boardwalk if stood on its end vertically.

--8: The number of construction workers experiencing sharp abdominal pain after surfacing from spending hours deep below the river waterline in the foundation caissons. The inexplicable agony would later be named caissons disease, or, the bends. The project manager, who also experienced severe discomfort, oversaw much of the construction from a top-floor apartment in Locust on the Park, which overlooks the boardwalk site.

--27,349,112: The number of scores over the length of the concrete surface...made using the end of a half-inch diameter oak tree branch found along the banks of the river.

--9 minutes: Time required for the trail solar-powered drawbridge to fully open giving boaters access to the portion of the river cut off by the boardwalk. Watercraft up to fifteen feet wide can pass through the opening.

--17: Hardhats washed away during a major May 2014 flood.

--16: Hardhats washed ashore Cape May, NJ, beaches.

--1: Hardhat washed ashore Stone Harbor, NJ beach.

--857 ft: The length of the moving sidewalk portion of the boardwalk. Recycled from PHL International Airport, the moving sidewalk--which will change direction every ten minutes--catapults runners, walkers, and cyclists past those on the adjacent static concrete.

--11 inches: Maximum depth of ice covering the tidal Schuylkill River during the harsh 2014 winter. The ice acted as a staging area, supporting cranes, cement trucks, and concrete construction supplies through early April.

--0 seconds: Time required to water the flora in each of the stainless steel hanging planters mounted on the non-trail side of the galvanized metal railings.

--45 degrees: Thirteen degrees above freezing. Also, the slope of the South Street Bridge access ramp.

--450,000 psi: Pressure each overlook bench is designed to withstand.

--2: number of CSX-controlled access gates at opposite ends of the boardwalk. The gates will automatically close "whenever a train is within fifty miles" or "whenever CSX feels like it."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jefferson Station: An emotional renaming

On September 4, 2014, Market East Station officially became Jefferson Station, named for the hospital a few blocks to the south. Below are a few reactions by local residents to the renaming:

--"Well, in addition to being a prominent colonial-era physician, [Thomas Jefferson] was a huge rail enthusiast--so it makes a lot of sense."

--"Seriously, get the &*$# out of here? No more Market East? Well I'll be damned!"

--"I'm not much of a transit person. I thought you needed directions somewhere."

--"They're really going to spend all that money changing all the signs, maps, and getting the conductors to say, 'Next stop, Jefferson Station?' I don't know."

--"[Thomas] Jefferson gave a lot of speeches from the caboose of trains. I think the renaming is a great thing and a great honor. Oh, and please bring back the caboose, SEPTA. I want to stare at your caboose, SEPTA."

--"Just when I thought SEPTA couldn't do anything dumber and idiotic, they go and pull a stunt like this...And totally redeem themselves."

--"It's a mistake. Total mistake. Jefferson was the guy behind the North and South having different rail gauges. He masterminded the whole thing."

--"He was the third president, and Market East is the third downtown station when headed east. So..."

--"I always knew something like this would happen."

--"Instead of a Quiet Car, there should be a Flu Shot Car. Oh, yes, I said that."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Washington Avenue Green: Millennials threaten to boycott new park until 'at least three' pop-up beer gardens installed

Philadelphia--Over the weekend, several hundred Millennials converged on Washington Avenue Green (Pier 53), the new Delaware River waterfront park, to protest the greenspace's lack of a permanent or pop-up beer garden. The peaceful group of 20- and 30-somethings showed up carrying high tables, picnic tables, ping pong tables, large beer glasses, fire pits, corn hole, recycled wood, and kegs of beer...lots of kegs. From these listed parts the "protesters," with surprisingly high-quality design and craftsmanship, constructed a "rogue beer garden" on the park's southern shoreline to demonstrate its potential to "be one with nature but with a malted beverage." The Green, which opened in mid August and was once home to the nation's first navy yard, and later the main immigration station for the city, was planned as a wetlands park and a place for visitors to take in the expansive views of the tidal waterway and distant city skyline. "We wanted to show that while this is a great place to enjoy and observe the natural wonders of where the river meets the shore, this should be done with a great local or regional beer in hand," said Albert Corrigan, vice president of Millennials in Philly (MIP), a group that advocates for "great beer gardens and even better corn hole" in every part of the city.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NFL: Blocking sled to get start for Eagles on Sunday

Above: The Philadelphia Eagles blocking sled practices with the first team after getting the call to start versus the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The National Football League will allow the Eagles to use a three-person blocking sled after losing three starting offensive linemen in the first three weeks of the season. Head coach Chip Kelly says he expects the sled to have no problems keeping up with his high-tempo offense. "We feel very comfortable and confident that the sled will seamlessly fit into our scheme. The sled has never missed a practice. I know the guys have had the sled over for barbecues and out at the bars," said Kelly. These same players will also have to position the sled at the line of scrimmage before the start of each play during the game.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Report: Eagles team bus caught in Indy's Monument Circle for hours

The veteran driver was unable to merge in any direction during countless laps around the busy traffic circle at the center of town.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Only three separate spans to be ready for Schuylkill River Boardwalk grand opening

Revelers celebrating the "opening" of the 2,000 ft walkway will be shuttled to and between the non-adjacent spans by boat. Bicycles WILL be allowed to make the trek.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tip Top Nails Station? Market East naming rights came down to Jefferson, local nail salon

Market East Station will be renamed Jefferson Station after the hospital located only two blocks away from the busy Center City regional rail stop. Other strong candidates for naming rights included: Wells Fargo ATM, Four Seasons Nail, Le Nails, and Lady Foot Locker.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

9,999 Villages? One village decides to 'test waters, head off on own'

Fair trade handmade gift shop frantically searching for replacement village to keep name intact. "We just think it's time we did our own thing," said a village representative. "It was an amicable separation...sort of."